The team were welcomed to Hong Kong over the weekend by a large Cook Islands contingent that lives in the Chinese territory, and were treated to a show by the local community on Monday night (CI Time).
“(But) this doesn’t defer from the fact that we are here for a job, and that is to qualify for the HSBC World Sevens circuit,” Iopu said.
“The on-field cohesion of the team is getting there. We’ve got an experienced team that has been together for a few years now, and the new players are slotting into the team seamlessly.”
Despite the team leaving behind 30-degree weather, he said that it is surprisingly hot in the city, something the team has found out at their training sessions.
Iopu said that coach Vase Samania has the team putting in the hard yards on the Hong Kong astroturf to combat jetlag.
However, due to the extreme heat, the team have to stop at various points during the training and take off their shoes to water down their feet with ice.
“With the entire team now together, Vase is working on how to best manage the large amount of talent he has in the squad,” Iopu explained.
“He is working on who would best complement each other and make an immediate impact from the get go, and also who would be best to come off the bench and make an impact later in the game.
“One thing is for sure, the players are sharp, strong and equally fit, and that’s thanks to their commitment, dedication and sacrifice to training locally and in Auckland.”
One thing that has stood out for Iopu is the team’s commitment off the field, as the years of experience together has created a strong unspoken respect, as well as expectations and discipline that they fastidiously adhere to.
“The boys are focused like I’ve never seen before. And they are having so much fun within the group, with lots of singing and teasing.”
Iopu also gave a big thank you to sponsors Air Rarotonga and Revolution Fitness for the support that they’ve given the team, and encouraged everyone to keep up with their exploits at the Cook Islands Men’s 7’s Facebook page.